Artwork Detail

Padre Mariano
French, 1944–2021
Vitrine, photograph, white linen, and lamp
47 1/4 x 23 5/8 x 4 5/8 "
University purchase, Charles H. Yalem Art Fund, 2000
WU 2000.0003
Focusing on themes of historical consciousness, Christian Boltanski stresses the need for memory in a contemporary society preoccupied with the present. In his work he appropriates and assembles found materials that evoke emotional connections for a broad range of viewers, whose associations with the familiar objects inform their experience with the artwork. In Padre Mariano, a simple wooden case holds a clear glass panel printed with a slightly blurred photograph of a woman; the space behind the imprinted panel is packed with stuffed linen cloths. An everyday desk lamp highlights the object, the cord dangling conspicuously down the center. Like many of Boltanski's works, Padre Mariano resembles a solemn, glowing altarpiece or memorial. Rather than commemorate a specific individual, though, the artist re-photographs and blurs into anonymity images found in archives, reconfiguring them into mementos representing human loss and trauma as a collective condition. Responding to the oppression and terror experienced in France during World War II, this work also alludes to the murder of innocent victims, with the bright spotlight implying interrogation and torture. In addition, the mysterious and obscure nature of the work suggests the collective irretrievability of such traumatic memories, which take on different forms for each individual. [Permanent collection label, 2011]